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NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms

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NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms



telomerase  listen  (teh-LOH-meh-rays)

  An enzyme in cells that helps keep them alive by adding DNA to telomeres (the ends of chromosomes). Each time a cell divides, the telomeres lose a small amount of DNA and become shorter. Over time, the chromosomes become damaged and the cells die. Telomerase helps keep this from happening. Cancer cells usually have more telomerase than most normal cells.